Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Earth Crisis "To The Death" Review

Earth Crisis "To The Death" Century Media

So, yes, i bought this on the day i came out. I have had a week and one day to absorb it. And as an astonished Marty McFly would utter, i have one word, "Heavy". i am revelling in this bands 'heaviosity'. If you are old like me and remember when this band epitomized (and pushed) this new hardcore sound, or you just got hip to these older cats on their reunion tour last year, you should love this. i have happily returned to it again and again over this past week.

HISTORY: Assuming you would read this out of interest, i will presume you like (or 'liked' them, most likely) Earth Crisis. So, let me put you in my perspective. In Summer of 1995, I remember my friend (who had been off to Detriot for a year) putting on his discman's earphones on my head with Destroy the Machines blaring. I was hooked. My favorite albums in my 17 year old brain being Madball: Set It Off, SOIA: JLA/STS, and all Sheer Terror, this approach to metal infused HC was new and amazing. It stepped it up in a crisp, technical, brutal manner that i was not aware of (i had not heard Unbroken, yet). Snapcase's Steps/lookingglasself just did not capture it (albums that still have a missing link to me - which their PTU found!). I went out and bought DTM. Now, Earth Crisis' prior output, the 2 ep's, All Out War and Firestorm, were cool; but, they also lacked something. His weaker/rap vox delivery and lesser production and musicianship weakened the delivery. Now, i love punk rock - so, i do not believe that someone has to be 'good' at writing music to have an impact - i listen to a lot of 'shitty' bands; my point, is that this style - and especially Earth Crisis - are strengthened and unleash a fiercer song with their skills honed. As the years passed, they released more albums, but none hit me like DTM. I did not like GSE at first; now, I like it - but it drags for me and does not as many distinguishing efforts in it. BTK was just a total metal effort, in my eyes, at the time; which was not my thing. Now -it is good, but nothing had the magic that DTM had. The B-sides, live cd's never interested me. I want to hear Jack Bruce, Ginger Baker and Clapton play "Sunshine of Your Love" - or fucking Fudge Tunnel, for that matter - not god damn Earth Crisis. Christ, cover fucking, S.O.A. or 7 Seconds. And didn't they even do a Led Zep cover? WTF? ugh. Anyway, to continue the journey, they then were burdened with making a record in the burst of Slipknot/Sevendust/Staind nu-metal era. And i am sure, on a label with Obituary, Soulfly, Sepultura, Machine Head, Fear Factory (and King Diamond!), that EC was like, "Hey! We've been making great metalcore that is accesible, where is our share?". Fair Enough. But that is a musician's cry, and not a hardcore kid's lament. And it will bite you back, my friend. So, they created "Slither". My once-friend (not due to this recommendation...) called me up and told me how awesome it was. "Different," he issued as a caveat. But his favorite was BTK. So, i ran out and picked it up. Remember, kiddies, no myspace, no xm radio, no on-demand, no metalcore in every magazine. You took a chance. And my chance was a snake in the grass under the Earth Crisis moniker. and i got stung. From the pleather-laden group photo (fine it is fake, but if you are vegan, why would you want to promote/emulate that image of leather?). I was done. The melodies, the singing: ouch. I hung my head in shame. Honestly, i was just so disappointed. The most vehement of hardcore, these men that took this lifestyle of resistence and rebellion that I embraced, to even further extremes than i did (vegan SXE), made a leap towards a commercially viable album. It was a sad day. I, then, yearned for a repeat of the two metal previous albums i had shunned. Freya came out a couple years later boasting 3/5 EC - i was hopeful, but that "Light" album was friggin' "Slither pt II". Well, at least i was under a different name this time. So, when Victory released a split between Hoods/Freya, i was stunned. Hoods seem too heavy, too 'core to be put out an ep with Freya. Oh, well, i ignored it. Then came a show in a small artspace usually saved for small bands (as220) that flagged For The Worse, Freya, and 25 ta Life. Wow! But, i guess in 2005, those bands were passed their prime and only old, nostalgic dudes like me would care. Well, Freya got up on this diminutive, humbling stage (precluded by Rick ta Life going, "Props to these dudes. They could be touring under Earth Crisis as a reunion to cash in, but they got integrity..." not that they do not now - just amusing) and these mothefuckers unleashed a barrage of unrelenting riffs and breakdowns and harcore screams on my delighted, yet surprised ass. No Singing. No harmonies. Just brutal metal core. I, I, I....think...i may be erect. I went out the next day and got that split and i will be damned if it was not fuckin incredible. Fast forward 4 years and a reunion tour later.....

"To The Death"

MUSIC: again - heavy. Some definite Hatebreed/Sepultura (Arise/Chaos AD/Roots) nods in this, that mid-paced chugga riff to stomp to. But remember, 4/5 of this line up was doin it years before Hatebreed. But, this is no HB wanna be record; no, sir. There are a myriad of nuances (by real musicians) that distinguish this from the onslaught of mediocrity most of the "metalcore" genre unloads upon us.

LYRICS: I like extremes. They really interest me. I admire positive ones. Earth Crisis (sans "Slither") has always had my respect. They got huge and only intensified their message - not subtexting it like other bigger bands. This is hardcore - and i maybe a self-destructive drunk and an indulgent meat eater - but i get their stance. And I agree with them. This album is amazing with their lyrics in the fact that it is not loaded with trivial platitudes or generic slogans or even rote, unsubstantiated chants of "Straight Fucking Edge!!!". And this is what separates EC. They delve in to the idiosyncracies of what drugs and this American lust for consumption do to us as a society and as a species. There is substance and thought into their substance-free lifestyles. That gives it an exponential worth and value. And here on "To The Death", they graphically illustrate the horrendous reprecussions of how these selfish, destructive, indulgent choices plague are communities and environments.

1. "Against the Current" comes right in with a nice chug and bursts into a quick pounce. Then, we are treated with a slow thrash of verse in to gang vox of "Against the Current!!!". So good. Some time changes (to slower, to faster) keep it interesting. It stays mostly fast with Karl spitting like a raspy serpent. You will definitely be moshing in the mirror to this. Lyrcially, it is a straight edge anthem. As a 'rebel', I want to scream in unison "Against the Current!", but this is for those stronger than I. Killer fucking kick off.

2. "To Ashes" jumps in with a mechanical pulse, pummeling the aural organs. This is switched to a more sweeping tempo after with fast riffing; then slower, heavy, more atmospheric leanings. The main chant of this is "Every Meth Lab Burned!". It is a focus on the specific problems and issues of Meth Production; which is an ugly scourge upon us if you have seen what this disgusting, cheap drug does.

3. "So Others Live" continues with pretty much the same feel as the previous track - fast riffing, with some Sepu-Slow downs. Nice breakown at 1:30 that will promote some rediculous stage dives. After another burst of speed, the song ends strongly on this chugging style. This song is a cry for the cessation of barbaric whaling (Well, all whaling - i just think it is barbaric) and an applauding to those who stop these ships.

4. "Security Threat #1" Here is a song that is bold and unapologetic. It is about how these drug cartels/dealers and all the fallout from their fighting and killing effect us all on a global scale. While personal drug consumption can appear to only effect the one who ingests it, the businees of growing and delivering of these drugs leads to innocent death, pain, loss, fear, and isolation across all communities. Which as (an almost) Libertarian, is a good opposition to my inclinations. No man is an island. Musically, it conitinues on as the previous songs. This one has more of a HB leaning than the others.

5. "When Slaves Revolt" is a good up-tempo stomp with a groove riff that tangents into some soloing; boasting a heavy SubZero/Merauder type romp. These lyrics a more abstract, but with "revolt" and "with steel in my hand" as main refrains, the message of anti-authority aggression is apparent. Nice.

6. "Plague Bearers" - an instrumental. a good 1:20 pause.

7. "Control Through Fear" is like track 5; a full, encompassing wall of slow chords envelop you. Then, that quick chug takes over. We bandy between these two tempos in a dark, metallic shroud that would make some long hair happy. Along with track 5 again, the lyrics are more metaphoric (and literal, i am sure with the sledgehammer reference) as a beckoning for the oppressed to break the chains and becoming "marionettes" of the oppressor no more. Word. Stop beig afraid and demand answers and culpability of those we put in power; socially, economically, and politically.

8. "Cities Fall" is a valiant look into the aftermath of when mother earth reclaims her lands; like that History Channel show on now, "Life After People". When "moss covers concrete...(and)...vegitation returns". We as humans must reap what we sow at some point, right? I personally can't wait till the negative aspects of over-building, over-population, and commercialism come to fruition. I like cities. I will only live in a city. But i am disgusted by the continual need to take country or pastoral settings so that we can have another convenience store, atm, fast food joint or what the fuck have you. Enough. Never mind the multitude of third world factories perpetuating deforestation. Musically, this is a Sworn Enemy/Cold as Life covering Cro-Mags kind of jaunt.

9. "Eye of Babylon" This band does love the religious references - which always shocked me as a defiant hardcore band. Oh, well. This song makes me feel like it is raining steel nails on my ears. Metal enough? A nice groove, like if Biohazard mated with Down my Throat, with Stampin Ground slappin the pitcher on the ass. A slight hip hop bounce is in the second third of the song. Me likey. The lyrics are a heed against stem-cell and cloning (i think).

10. "What Horrifies" has double-bass riddims chaperone us through Karl screaming about the perils of drunk driving and mothers smoking and drug addiction. Again, it is nice to see specific examples of abuse, the anchor to any strong argument. Musically, this song is a touch heavier, with a tough tone - like ArkAngel or Full Blown Chaos. Again, time changes keep it fresh and from escaping monotony.

11. "To The Death" defintiely ends this beeeach on a friggin' high note. God Damn. "Vegan For Life" leaves no room for misinterpretations. "I disengage the death machine". This is a song that disavows any responsibilty to the slaughter of other bretheren creatures. And they mean it. Vegan Straight Edge. Proud. And they save the two harshest breakdowns for last. Out on top.


I remember picking up The Control s/t 10" on +/- Records, walking into Copley Square on a sunny day, when my older friend asked me "So, what amazing things to those guys have to say? i mean, it must be the lyrics that makes you buy different bands, cuz all that shit sounds the same." And while i can listen to a thousand bands that others say sound the same, i think this Earth Crisis record exemplifies that sentiment with percision.

The music will defintiely make Doc Brown question the future of the earth's gravitational pull. The lyrics are a great example of not following a crowd or chanting vapid expressions. These guys have explored the reasons for their choices and backed up their viewpoints. and that's fuckin' hardcore. The production is perfect for their sound; brash, but never over done. I do love Bulldog's bass that pokes through and propels the brilliant execution of Merrick's drumming. The guitars are a heavy and authoritative presence and the vocals are tweaked here and there for resonance, but mostly it is just Karl screaming the best he ever has. I would also love to give a tip of the hat to Paul Romano/workhardened for great layout. Nice, simple but not generic SXE or tattoo shit. Good stark imagery using Black/White/Red/Gray. Original and striking. All around, a complete package that is a proud representation of what hardcore can be. Thanks, boys. Glad to have you Back.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Make It Count "Leeway" Review

Make It Count "Leeway" GSR Music
Holy Shit. I am a year late on this, and maybe i thought it was another generic youth crew thing, but uh, i missed the fuckin train. When i see GSR, i think that German metalcore shit (which i like); but, like, Born From Pain, Arkangel, Knuckledust, etc. But they've got some newer school shit - like Italy's Strength Approach.
Anyway, Make It Count bring the best of all worlds: they channel some Madball, some Coalition, and some Champion; while still giving props to Insted and Chain of Strength. Also, they blend in contemporaries like Cast Aside music with Dragnet vox. Heavy, fast music with a slight melody/catchiness. The vocals are perfect, strained screams gracing every track.
These tracks are heavy, skipping through some brutal riffs; good time changes. Mostly fast with sweeping breakdowns. The tones of the guitars and the pep of the drums and the vocals culminate with an urgency that is impossible to ignore. I hope these Germans come stateside for some pile-ons and sing-alongs. This is above average hardcore. check it out.

COA/Pressure "Stalemate" Review

Pressure/Colin of Arabia "Stalemate" Split 12" 6131 Records

I know this has been out for a spell, but i buy all this shit myself. I had not had the chance to hear Pressure, and "wow" am i impressed. Fast, tough, unpolished hardcore. Starts out on a low-tuned gallop, and the gutteral bellowing begins, like a sweet honey lubejob in my ear. The song speeds through the first minute, then a grooved riff breakdown - layered with some higher guitar notes and screams make for a pretty ill final 2/3 of the song. Song 2 comes in on that mid-tempo anticipatory lingering beat - It stays this tempo as the dude screams some more - definite side to side stomp for the angry HC kids. Good stuff to get amped up for the third song that which gets right back to the speed. Pressure blasts another gem. And then they end with a cover of "Evil" (hey, at least, it's not "Chaos") and they fucking nail it - true to the original and enough of a twist of their own. Fuckin good. This band kills. For fans of: COA, beefed Up KYI, Scraps and HeartAttacks; tough angle on some old school shit with a punk snarl.

COA jumps in with two killer tracks - sounding tighter then the Snitch 7". This first song, "FEMA", COA keeps the good Sociological critique stuff that they do. Fast and then the 2nd half is slowed down. Crazy screams beckoning the gods and channelling the disillusionment this obscene goverment perpetuates. The 2nd song is the "stabbed in the back" shit; slow, then fast. They end with a pretty good BFB cover. COA does what it does; chaotic, noisy, unpredictable, blazing hardcore. And they do it damn well.

Not Now Not Ever 7" Review

Not Now Not Ever 7" Defiant Hearts Records
Mostly this is "Hoods Up!" side-to-side mosh stuff; but that is a disservice to dismiss it that quickly. There are some tougher breakdowns and actual musicianship in these songs. I did have to check my record player to check the tone or pitch or speed - the dude's voice threw me for a sec. Expecting a HC growl, i got a higher pitch than expected. But its more Mark Shutdown than Mike Ski, so by the 2nd song, i was fine.
This 7" is a quick little romp by these kids from Denmark. A Bane/Guns Up! style that is fun. Samples between each song and lyrics that advance their age. To repeat, mostly a newer style HC, but they pepper in sme harder riffs. A good variety, not run of the mill. They are not my new thing, but i look forward to a full-length.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Defiant Hearts "Arlington" review

Defiant Hearts "Arlington" 6131 Records
For fans of: Bane, Killing the Dream, Dead Hearts, etc. Sharply produced, fast as fuck passionate Mass hardcore. Some pauses and slow parts (moments to reflect, i guess. very deep.) that aural landscape of discordant noises and tremolo - but sparse and quick. Not indulgent like Verse.
Mostly, these dudes get down to business. Like the speed and intensity of MPB, but replacing the dark and doom with the tonality and chords of turning point. Jangly bass and wandering soloing creates a sense of urgency, pushed by pummeling drumd in 4/4 time. Lyrics are abstract and morose. Again, this will be grouped with Have Heart and MLIW - but this is tighter and better, if that stuff turns you off. Lots of breakdoowns and gang chant moments; expect constant stage dives. Good chaotic, sweaty posi-core - self-proclaimed "melodic hardcore". These dudes give nods to mid-'80s Dischord stuff, but that may be more inspirational that musical. This CD is taut, fierce music. Not revolutionary, but a pretty good outing.